Economist Tymofiy Mylovanov, director of the Kyiv School of Economics, one year after the Russian invasion answers the question what Ukraine could have done to avoid the war. Read this short Ukrainian crash course for geopolitical analysts who are impregnated by Moscow's view.
Ukrainian girl in Kyiv copies a mural by graffiti artist Banksy, who covered the country with paintings in support of Ukraine
by Tymofiy Mylovanov
The generally accepted argument for the war is that Ukraine is some kind of a threat for Russia. There are multiple versions of this argument, ranging from the threat of Ukraine joining NATO to Ukraine becoming a successful democracy. Indeed, why would Russia otherwise invade?
Maybe the reason was that things got personal between Volodymyr Zelensky and Vladimir Putin after the Paris meeting on 9 December 2019 [president Macron tried to broker peace in Paris - ed.], or because Zelensky went after Viktor Medvedchuk, a Ukrainian oligarch close to Putin [leader of pro-Russian political party, Putin is godfather to his daughter - ed.], or because for purely Russian domestic reasons. Perhaps, but unlikely. But this is still a theory of threat, through challenge.
So, how could Ukraine be less of a threat or challenge to Russia?
In the 1990s Ukraine gave up nuclear weapons. In 2000s Ukraine signed the Kharkiv agreements with Russia and gave Russia everything it wanted on the status of the Russian Black sea fleet base in Crimea [in 2010 Yanukovich extended the lease of the military base to Russia for 25 years - ed.]. Russia later used those privileges and conditions to move its troops to Crimea to annex it in 2014.
Ukraine gave Russia everything it wanted on trade. Although Viktor Yanukovich in 2004 was ousted after the Orange Revolution against election fraud, he was eventually elected in 2010 as a Russian proxy president.
Ukraine allowed Russian capital to infiltrate Ukrainian economy, allowed Russian oligarchs to operate in Ukraine, and allowed Ukrainian oligarchs to cut partnership deals with Russian oligarchs. Ukraine allowed powerful Russian banks to hold substantive market shares in Ukraine.
Russia was Ukraine's main trading partner with Ukraine. Ukrainian goverment officials in top positions had Russian passports. A pro-Russian party held the majority in the Ukrainian parliament.
All that changed in 2014.
Kremlin nazi nonsense
When the Russian proxy president Yanukovich decided, under pressure from Moscow, to stop negotiations about a trade agreement between Ukraine and the EU, the Ukrainian people revolted, were killed, Yanukovych fled and pro-Ukrainian parties and politicians came to power.
There were, of course, tons of politicians who switched from being pro-Russian to being pro-Ukrainian, the oligarchs (slightly) changed their behavior. Then Russia annexed Crimea and invaded the Donbas. This was followed by 2 years of intense war in the East of Ukraine.
Russia spread all this nonsense about radicals, nazis, civil war, language issues, which the free world happily bought. A lot of Ukrainians died, but a new military, new political elites, new law enforcement were born. They were not ideal, they were infiltrated and immediately partially captured by Russian and oligarchic interests.
But after that 2014 revolution, an evolution began and its direction was clear: away from Russia's abusive authoritarian culture towards the values of the free world. Russia tried to stop this through military action in the East, supported by its attempts to sabotage democratic development in Ukraine through the Minsk agreements. There was also a very serious and quite successful anti-Western, anti-democratic, cynical propaganda effort, trying to destroy Ukrainians' belief in their government and reforms.
Getting closer to Europe
But all these efforts backfired and Ukraine was getting closer to Europe. The EU became its main trading partner and Russia lost that status, a number of successful deep structural reforms were implemented. A comprehensive system of anticorruption agencies emerged. And most importantly: Ukrainians continued to vote freely and continued to produce leaders at all levels.
Ukraine was becoming the opposite of what Russia wanted it to be and Ukrainian civil society and political elites were becoming professional and powerful.
And so Russia decided to stop it or die trying. And so it will.
There is nothing we could have done to prevent the Russian 'mysterious soul' from invading us. And we will have to be the end of the awful Russia as the world knows it. But to do this we need the world's support!